VMworld 2019 Review – Project Pacific is a Stroke of Kubernetes Genius… but not without a catch!

Kubernetes Kubernetes, Kubernetes… say Kubernetes one more time… I dare you!

If it wasn’t clear what the key take away from VMworld 2019 was last week in San Francisco then I’ll repeat it one more time… Kubernetes! It was something which I predicted prior to the event in my session breakdown. And all jokes aside, with the amount of times we heard Kubernetes mentioned last week, we know that VMware signalled their intent to jump on the Kubernetes freight train and ride it all the way.

When you think about it, the announcement of Project Pacific isn’t a surprise. Apart from it being an obvious path to take to ensure VMware remains viable with IT Operations (IT Ops) and Developers (Devs) holistically, the more I learned about what it actually does under the hood, the more I came to belief that it is a stroke of genius. If it delivers technically on the its promise of full ESX and Kubernetes integration into the one vSphere platform, then it will be a huge success.

The whole premise of Project Pacific is to use Kubernetes to manage workloads via declarative specifications. Essentially allowing IT Ops and Devs to tell vSphere what they want and have it deploy and manage the infrastructure that ultimately serves as a platform for an application. This is all about the application! Abstracting all infrastructure and most of the platform to make the application work. We are now looking at a platform platform that controls all aspects of that lifecycle end to end.

By redesigning vSphere and implanting Kubernetes into the core of vSphere, VMware are able to take advantage of the things that make Kubernetes popular in todays cloud native world. A Kubernetes Namespace is effectively a tenancy in Kubernetes that will manage applications holistically and it’s at the namespace level where policies are applied. QoS, Security, Availability, Storage, Networking, Access Controls can all be applied top down from the Namespace. This gives IT Ops control, while still allowing devs to be agile.

I see this construct similar to what vCloud Director offers by way of a Virtual Datacenter with vApps used as the container for the VM workloads… in truth, the way in which vCD abstracted vSphere resources into tenancies and have policies applied was maybe ahead of it’s time?

DevOps Seperation:

DevOps has been a push for the last few years in our industry and the pressure to be a DevOp is huge. The reality of that is that both sets of disciplines have fundamentally different approaches to each others lines of work. This is why it was great to see VMware going out of their way to make the distinction between IT Ops and Devs.

Dev and IT Ops collaboration is paramount in todays IT world and with Project Pacific, when a Dev looks at the vSphere platform they see Kubernetes. When an IT Ops guy looks at vSphere he still sees vSphere and ESXi. This allows for integrated self service and allows more speed with control to deploy and manage the infrastructure and platforms the run applications.

Consuming Virtual Machines as Containers and Extensibility:

Kubernetes was described as a Platform Platform… meaning that you can run almost anything in Kubernetes as long as its declared. The above image shows a holistic application running in Project Pacific. The application is a mix of Kubernetes containers, VMs and other declared pieces… all of which can be controlled through vSphere and lives under that single Namespace.

When you log into the vSphere Console you can see a Kubernetes Cluster in vSphere and see the PODs and action on them as first class citizens. vSphere Native PODs are an optimized run time… apparently more optimized than baremetal… 8% faster than baremetal as we saw in the keynote on Monday. The way in which this is achieved is due to CPU virtualization having almost zero cost today. VMware has taken advantage of the advanced ESXi scheduler of which vSphere/ESXi have advanced operations across NUMA nodes along with the ability to strip out what is not needed when running containers on VMs so that there is optimal runtime for workloads.

vSphere will have two APIs with Project Pacific. The traditional vSphere API that has been refined over the years will remain and then, there will be the Kubernetes API. There is also be ability to create infrastructure with kubectl. Each ESXi Cluster becomes a Kubernetes cluster. The work done with vSphere Integrated Containers has not gone to waste and has been used in this new integrated platform.

PODs and VMs live side by side and declared through Kubernetes running in Kubernetes. All VMs can be stored in the container registry. Critical Venerability scans, encryption, signing can be leveraged at a container level that exist in the container ecosystem and applied to VMs.

There is obviously a lot more to Project Pacific, and there is a great presentation up on YouTube from Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld 2019 which I have embedded below. In my opinion, they are a must for all working in and around the VMware ecosystem.

The Catch!

So what is the catch? With 70 million workloads across 500,000+ customers VMware is thinking that with this functionality in place the current movement of refactoring of workloads to take advantage of cloud native constructs like containers, serverless or Kubernetes doesn’t need to happen… those, and existing workloads instantly become first class citizens on Kubernetes. Interesting theory.

Having been digging into the complex and very broad container world for a while now, and only just realising how far on it has become in terms of it being high on most IT agendas my currently belief is that the world of Kubernetes and containers is better placed to be consumed on public clouds. The scale and immediacy of Kubernetes platforms on Google, Azure or AWS without the need to ultimately still procure hardware and install software means that that model of consumption will still have an advantage over something like Project Pacific.

The one stroke of genius as mentioned is that by combining “traditional” workloads with Kubernetes as its control plane within vSphere the single, declarative, self service experience that it potentially offers might stop IT Operations from moving to public clouds… but is that enough to stop the developers forcing their hands?

It is going to be very interesting to see this in action and how well it is ultimately received!

More on Project Pacific

The videos below give a good level of technical background into Project Pacific, while Frank also has a good introductory post here, while Kit Colbert’s VMworld session is linked in the references.

References:

https://videos.vmworld.com/global/2019/videoplayer/28407

2 comments

  • Too little too late. At least for those a year in to the journey or more. Large VMWare shops that want to keep on paying the high sphere tax and are Greenfield with containers may the but they are at least a year late to the table with pivotal and realizing how dangerous things like kubevirt are. They’ll be fine. They’re excellent and fooling their customer base and force feeding them koolaid but VMware is shit at things they have just bought or embraced. Lockin is their friend and this would be crazy insane further lockin madness.

  • Completely agree on the public cloud consumption model. It just doesn’t make sense to keep paying for vSphere licenses as more and more applications move to a container model. Nice article!

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